Robert Fano

Robert Fano
  • [ Login to edit profile ]

  • Position: Professor Emeritus
  • Office:
  • Phone: +1 (617) 253-6021
  • Email:
  • Areas of Study: Communications Engineering
  • Last Update: July 9, 2008
  • Download vCard


Dr. Robert M. Fano was Ford Professor of Engineering, in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology until his retirement in June, 1984. He organized MIT's Project MAC (now the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory) in 1963 and was its Director until September 1968. He also served as Associate Head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from 1971 to 1974.

Professor Fano chaired the Centennial Study Committee of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science whose report, "Lifelong Cooperative Education," was published in October, 1982.

Professor Fano was born in Torino, Italy, and did most of his undergraduate work at the School of Engineering of Torino before coming to the United States in 1939. He received the Bachelor of Science degree in 1941 and the Doctor of Science degree in 1947, both in Electrical Engineering from MIT. He has been a member of the MIT staff since 1941 and a member of its faculty since 1947.

During World War II, Professor Fano was on the staff of the MIT Radiation Laboratory, working on microwave components and filters. He was also group leader of the Radar Techniques Group of Lincoln Laboratory from 1950 to 1953. He has worked and published at various times in the fields of network theory, microwaves, electromagnetism, information theory, computers and engineering education. He is author of the book entitled "Transmission of Information", and co-author of "Electromagnetic Fields, Energy and Forces" and "Electromagnetic Energy Transmission and Radiation". He is also co-author of Volume 9 of the Radiation Laboratory Series.

Professor Fano is a member of the National Academy of Sciences (1978) and of the National Academy of Engineering (1973) and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1958) and of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (1954). He was the recipient of the 1976 Shannon Award of the IEEE Information Theory Society, and of the 1977 Education Medal of the IEEE. He was also the recipient of the 1969 prize "City of Columbus, Ohio" awarded by the International Institute of Communications and of the 1986 Colombian Gold Medal of the city of Genova, Italy. He served on the Board of Trustees of Bentley College, Waltham, Mass. from 1973 to 1993 and was for a number of years a member of its Executive Committee.



  • "The Theory of Microwave Filters" and "The Design of Microwave Filters" (with A.W. Lawson, Jr.), Chapters 9 and 10 of Microwave Transmission Circuits, Edited by G. Ragan, Vol. 9, Radiation Laboratory Series, McGraw-Hill, 1948.
  • 2) Electromagnetic Fields, Energy and Forces (with L.J. Chu and R.B. Adler), John Wiley and Sons, 1960.
  • 3) Electromagnetic Energy Transmission and Radiation (with R.B. Adler and L.J. Chu), John Wiley and Sons, 1960.
  • 4) Transmission of Information, MIT Press and John Wiley and Sons, March, 1961, Russian Translation 1963, Japanese Translation 1965, German Translation 1966.

Selected Articles:

  • "Microwave Filters Using Quarter-Wave Couplings" (with A.W. Lawson, Jr.), I.R.E. Proceedings, Vol. 35, November 1947, pp. 1318-1323.
  • "Theoretical Limitations on the Broadband Matching of Arbitrary Impedances", Journal of the Franklin Institute, Vol. 249, January and February 1950, pp.57-83, and 139-154.
  • "A Note on the Solution of Certain Approximation Problems in Network Synthesis", Journal of the Franklin Institute, Vol. 249, March 1950, pp. 189-205.
  • "Short-Time Autocorrelation Functions and Power Spectra", Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, Vol. 22, No. 5, June, 1950, pp. 546-550.
  • "A Unified Approach to MTI and Doppler Radar," MIT Research Lab of Electronics and Lincoln Lab., Tech Rep. 10, July 22, 1952.
  • "A Heuristic Discussion of Probabilistic Decoding", IEEE Transactions of the PGIT, Vol. IT-9. Number 2, April 1963, pp. 64-74. Reprinted in Key Papers in the Development of Coding Theory, Ed. Elwyn R. Berlekamp, 1974, pp. 166-76.
  • "The MAC System: The Computer Utility Approach", IEEE Spectrum, January 1965, pp. 56-64.
  • "Some Thoughts about the Social Implications of Accessible Computing",(with E.E. David, Jr.), Proceedings of the Fall Joint Computer Conference, November 30, 1965, pp. 243-247
  • "Time-Sharing on Computers", (with F.J. Corbató), Scientific American, Vol. 215, No. 3, September 1966, pp. 129-140; also in Information, A Scientific American Book, W.H. Freeman & Co., 1966, pp. 76-95
  • "The Computer Utility and the Community", 1967 IEEE International Convention Record, Part 12, pp. 30-37.
  • "On the Social Role of Computer Communications", Proceedings of the IEEE, Vol. 60, No. 11, November 1972, pp. 1247-53. Reprinted in Turning Points in American Electrical History, Ed. James E. Brittain, IEEE Press, New York, 1977, pp.385-89.
  • "A Theory of Impulse Noise in Telephone Networks", IEEE Transactions of the Communications Society, June, 1977; also IBM Research Report, RZ 766(#26299), July 7, 1976
  • "Project Mac" Encyclopedia of Computer Science and Technology, Vol. 12, Marcel Dekker, Inc. New York and Basel, 1979.
  • "Lifelong Cooperative Education", Report of the Centennial Study Committee of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (with J.D. Bruce, W.M.Siebert, L.D. Smullin), The MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass., October, 1982.


  • Politecnico di Torino: Honorary Degree (2005)
  • City of Genoa| Italy: Columbian Gold Medal (1986)
  • National Academy of Sciences: Member (1978)
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers: James H. Mulligan| Jr. Education Medal (1977)
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers: Claude E. Shannon Award (1976)
  • National Academy of Engineering: Member (1973)
  • American Academy of Arts and Sciences: Fellow (1958)
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers: Fellow (1954)